Few players and clubs in Major League Soccer have been more closely associated than Shalrie Joseph and the New England Revolution.
Over 10 seasons wearing the Revs’ crest, Joseph had eight all-star seasons, four MLS Best XI seasons and one season as an MVP finalist.
Then, after wearing that crest 264 times in MLS regular-season and postseason games, he was traded away to Chivas USA last season in a deal that New England coach Jay Heaps – Joseph’s former teammate – called “the hardest decision” he had to make.
“I didn’t really see it coming,” Joseph said Thursday. “I had a conversation, and then I knew it happened. It’s a business. I understand they have to make moves, and it did well for my career, coming up here. This is the place I wanted to be, and this is the place I’m happy I’m at right now.”
Joseph was traded to Seattle after 12 games with Chivas. One of those games was at New England, where he scored twice in a 3-3 draw. Now, he is about to face his old club for the second time, when the Revolution visits CenturyLink Field at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s not ancient history,” Joseph said. “It’s still in the back of my mind. I still think about it. Being there for so long, I definitely have some great experience and learned so much from the coach and everybody that was up there. And the fans were unbelievably great to me throughout my career.
“But it’s all about what I’m wearing now, the Sounders colors of green. And I love being here, I love playing for this team.”
The game has urgency for both clubs that transcends the Joseph subplot.
New England (1-1-2) is last in the MLS Eastern Conference; Seattle (0-3-1), the league’s only winless team, is last overall.
“On this team the expectations are so high – and not just with the fans, but inside the locker room – that we expect to win a game when we go out, and we expect a great performance,” Joseph said. “That’s the kind of potential this team is capable of.”
Designated player Obafemi Martins returned to Sounders training Thursday after leaving last week to have his knee assessed by a doctor familiar with the injury.
“There’s no surgery,” Martins said. “I just want to treat it and start playing. … I hope soon; I hope on Saturday. But like I say, I want to take care of it, I want to treat it as soon as possible.”
The club has not given details on the nature of the injury. However, the primary treatment seems to involve rest, and coach Sigi Schmid sounded determined not to rush Martins back.
“We’ve got to be sure he’s healthy,” Schmid said. “We can’t shortchange ourselves and put guys on the field (who) aren’t healthy and who aren’t in a position to give 100 percent. … With Oba right now we’ve got to get him at that point.”
Also questionable for Saturday are forwards Eddie Johnson (hamstring) and David Estrada (eye) and midfielder Brad Evans (calf).
The Sounders will open the upper bowl of CenturyLink Field for four games clustered in a new ticket package that will go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday: June 8, vs. Vancouver; Aug. 25, vs. Portland; Sept. 13, vs. Salt Lake; and Oct. 27, vs. Los Angeles. Information at SoundersFC.com.
Seattle again leads MLS with an average home attendance of 39,574. The attendance runner-up is Montreal, at 32,078. The league average is 17,390.